‘I thank you for today’s triumph,’ says Zelensky as Ukraine hits Russian ships, missile defence

  • Ukraine claims it hit Russian patrol ships in Crimea.
  • The ships are part of the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol.
  • It added that Russian air defences in Crimea were destroyed.

Ukraine said its forces attacked two Russian patrol ships operating in the Black Sea and destroyed a sophisticated “Triumf” surface-to-air missile defence system in Russian-occupied Crimea, with military analysts describing the loss of such equipment as “tactical failures” by Russia.

The attacks reported on Thursday followed a day after Kyiv said it had carried out a missile strike that badly damaged a Russian submarine and a naval landing ship that were undergoing repairs in a shipyard in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

In a post on the Telegram messaging app on Thursday, Ukraine’s military said it hit two Russian patrol vessels in a southwest region of the Black Sea, causing “certain damage” in a morning attack.

“The [Sergei] Kotov was hit,” military intelligence official Andriy Yusov told the Reuters news agency, sharing a grainy video circulated online by a Ukrainian government minister that appeared to show sea drones attacking a vessel at sea.

The Russian Defence Ministry confirmed an attack on the Sergei Kotov ship in a morning statement but said the assault involving five sea drones was repelled. 

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It made no mention of damage.

Ukraine’s military also said it had hit a Russian air defence system in a long-range attack in the early hours of Thursday near the town of Yevpatoriya in the west of Crimea.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made special reference to the Crimea attack in his nightly message to the nation on Thursday.

“I thank you for today’s triumph – the destruction of the occupiers’ air defence system on the land of our Crimea. It is a very significant achievement. Well done!” he said.

“The entire staff of the Security Service of Ukraine and our Navy should be specially commended for this.”

A Ukrainian intelligence source said that aerial combat drones first incapacitated the Russian air defence system by attacking its radar and antenna and that two Neptune cruise missiles were fired and had destroyed the defence system’s launchers.

Footage circulated on social media showed powerful explosions and a plume of smoke rising in the night sky, illuminated by a blaze. Reuters could not verify the video.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said its air defences shot down 11 drones overnight over the peninsula and did not mention damage.

Washington, DC-based think tank, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), said on Thursday that the reported destruction of the Russian S-400 “Triumf” surface-to-air missile system based in Crimea in a “special operation” points to serious issues in Russia’s defence of the occupied peninsula.

“The strike suggests that Russian forces were unprepared to intercept missiles with the system or were unable to do so,” the ISW said.

This combination of handout satellite pictures shows a general view of the Sevastopol Shipyard in Crimea (top R) on 12 September 2023 before a strike, and a general view of damage at the Shipyard after a strike on 13 September 2023.

According to the ISW, Ukrainian forces hit a Russian S-400 air defence system near Olenivka, Crimea, in late August.

A “second Ukrainian strike on a significant Russian air defence system in recent weeks indicates that such tactical failures may reflect a wider systemic issue with Russian air defences in occupied Crimea”, the think tank said.

The reported location of the attack on the Russian navy in the Black Sea would also indicate that Ukraine has increased ability to hit Russian targets far from its coastline.

While Kyiv’s counteroffensive in the south and east has been slowed by minefields and Russian defensive lines, Ukrainian forces have escalated attacks in the Black Sea region, where Russia is imposing a de facto blockade on Ukraine’s seaborne exports.

Ukraine has increasingly relied on seaborne drones to attack Russian targets, hitting the Olenegorsky Gornyak landing ship near Russia’s naval base at Novorossiysk early in August, as well as a Russian fuel tanker.

Ukraine continues to press on with its gruelling counteroffensive with fierce fighting reported in many parts of the front line, but no significant breakthroughs in the three-month-old campaign.

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